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Surfers who will battle at first-ever WSL Finals at Lower Trestles decided

The surfers who will battle it out for the world championship title at Lower Trestles in September have been decided, the first time a major professional surf contest has been held in years at the popular cobblestone surf spot south of San Clemente.

The 10 top surfers – five men and five women – were determined during the Corona Open Mexico contest this week, which turned out to be the last stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour after a last-minute cancellation of the Outerknown Tahiti Pro following the tightening of coronavirus-related closures in that region.

Among the five men who made the cut for the WSL Finals are Brazilians Italo Ferreira, a world champion who just won gold at the first-ever surf contest in the Olympics, current world No. 1 Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo, who now calls San Clemente home. Joining those three will be Santa Barbara native Conner Coffin and WSL rookie Morgan Cibilic, of Australia.

Coffin and Cibilic’s strong finish in Mexico allowed them to jump up in points to earn a spot, knocking down local hopefuls Griffin Colapinto, of San Clemente, and Kanoa Igarashi, of Huntington Beach, both who were near the top five, but had early exits in the contest, bumping down in the rankings and knocked out of the running.

California’s Coffin was “fired up” to go to the finals, he said in an interview with WSL.

“It was one of those weird weeks where everything sort of crumbled into my lap and panned out perfectly,” he said. “With Teahupoo getting canceled it played into my favor, even though I would’ve loved to surf some good waves and big tubes there, but I’m stoked to go to Lowers.”

San Clemente surfer Caroline Marks, who just competed for Team USA at surfing’s debut in Japan, just missed a spot at the finals, ending up in the sixth spot in overall rankings.

The line up for the top five women include France’s Johanne Defay, Australians Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore, Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb and Hawaiian Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Carissa Moore.

Surf fans will be able to up close to Carissa Moore, who just earned gold at the surfing’s Olympic debut, when she competes for the WSL Finals in mid-September at Lower Trestles. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Seven-time WSL champion Gilmore, en-route to eventually winning the Corona Open Mexico along with Australia’s Jack Robinson, secured her spot in the WSL Finals, knocking down Santa Ana surfer Courtney Conlogue in the rankings.

“Once I heard that Tahiti was canceled I knew this was the event to make it happen,” said Gilmore. “I couldn’t let the foot off the gas here, because I wanted to make sure I had a shot into the finals. So it’s amazing to be in it.”

The cancelation of the Tahiti Pro was a disappointment to many of the surfers who hoped to battle it out on what is planned as the Olympic stage in 2024 at the famed surf break Teahupoo.

The move came after the French government declared a state of emergency for French Polynesia due to COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising people not to travel there.

The new WSL Finals is  a drastic change to professional surfing’s longtime format, crowning a champ in a one-day surf-off rather than based on points accumulated throughout the competitive year.

In past years, some surfers have learned of their championship wins in locker rooms or while on the sand, making for an anti-climatic finish.

The WSL Finals will have a window from Sept. 8 to 17, with the contest to run on the day with the best surf conditions.

After the WSL Finals this September, the surf action will be back in Surf City with the U.S. Open of Surfing, which is returning after a pandemic hiatus.

The U.S Open runs Sept. 20-26 and is expected to draw top pro surfers at the “Challenger Series” event, which allows surfers on the qualifying series to earn points and nudge up the ranks for a spot on the following year’s World Tour, or help give a safety net to surfers already on tour who need back-up points.

The competition field will include 96 men and 64 women – including 34 men and 17 women from the Championship Tour, 58 men and 44 women allocated by the WSL regions, two men’s and women’s World Junior wildcards, and two men’s and one women’s wildcards. Any unused Championship Tour spots will become wildcards.

Prize money for winners will be $20,000 for both men and women divisions.

Source: Orange County Register

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